Today’s Market Overview – Outdoor Apparel (Public Version)
Some great new products were unveiled at the Outdoor Retailer 2004 Winter Market today. Leading the way in technology innovation, with smaller lighter packages is the Suunto X9 GPS-on-a-wrist unit from the navigation wristwatch gurus and the ACR TerraFix 406 personal locator beacon designed specifically with backcountry users – rather than oceangoers – in mind. Stay tuned tomorrow for our hard goods lineup, but for now, keep an eye out for new trends in outdoor apparel, including multi-function outerwear featuring head and hand insulation and softshell insulating wear.
GoLite continues to expand its synthetic insulation line with the M GoLite Whisper Sweater and GoLite Rumor Vest. With Primaloft insulation and ultralight lining and face fabrics, this new line of insulating clothing is worth watching.
The M GoLite Karma Jacket is a new Schoeller Dryskin full-zip shell that takes the Cloudveil Serendipity head-on. It comes in lighter than the Cloudveil’s signature piece, offers better styling, and a more versatile fit. Low pockets make the GoLite Karma slightly less suitable for the “tech crowd” who likes their pockets to ride above their harness.
The M GoLite Momentum Jacket, using Powershield Lite, or Powershield Micro, or Powershield Feather (or whatever the heck you want to call it – at 166 grams, it’s the lightest Powershield flavor available), is a full-zip soft shell positioned as more weather resistant than Schoeller Dryskin / Dynamic apparel, but still breathable for cold weather motion sports. We are thrilled to see the Powershield category evolve – the lightest weight versions of Powershield offer outstanding soft shell performance for lightweight backpackers looking for serious weather protection without the clamminess of waterproof-breathable shells. GoLite continues to do a fine job in this product line and the GoLite Momentum Jacket will be a product to watch closely.
GoLite has finally put their abysmal Go-Dri waterproof-breathable (?) fabric to rest. It was sorrowfully sweaty and a branding disaster, akin to a “toy” fabric belonging to a company trying to position itself as the leader in high performance ultralight apparel. And so, they replace it with the much cooler named and far more breathable Alchemy 2- and 3-layer fabrics. Alchemy is featured as an upgraded in several existing shells in the GoLite line, and is highlighted in the new M GoLite Wizard Jacket. In the GoLite Wizard, we are treated to full-service integration of inclement weather apparel: hide-away knit cuffs roll out to become warm mittens, and an integrated knit balaclava mates well with the GoLite Wizard Jacket hood to bring new meaning to multi-use apparel. The jacket is still too heavy to have wide appeal, but it makes a bold and promising statement about the direction that inclement weather apparel may offer for the future.
Less exciting developments are occuring in GoLite’s down insulation program with the introduction of their much-awaited M Cumulus Down Jacket and Cirrus Down Vest. The jacket’s loft hits a sweet spot for three-season backpacking, but the overall weight is not competitive with the lightest offerings from Western Mountaineering. And so, Western, Feathered Friends, and Peter Hutchinson Designs (UK) retain their crowns, despite the fact that the lightweight community is looking to GoLite to leverage their marketing engine to be a technical leader in what seems like an obvious category in which to do so. Don’t get us wrong – the Cumulus and Cirrus are solid designs and will find their appeal to U.S. customers, and they’ll certainly cater to the functional demands of overseas markets for downwear (a massive lifestyle category in Asia), but they won’t earn high praise from the bleeding edge of the ultralight community here.
Lowe Alpine Warm Zone Top and Ninja Hoody
OK, I know, get past the product name for just a minute. This is a great design. The basis behind the warm zone is fabric construction tailored precisely such that breathability is enhanced where you tend to sweat the most. Synthetic base layers get smart with Lowe Alpine Warm Zone apparel. And, fine tune the top further with reversibility. Truly innovative.
Cloudveil Zero-G Jacket
Now for something completely different: soft shell stretch woven outer shell, highly breathable nylon woven inner lining, and yes, synthetic high-loft insulation. Just when we thought apparel categories had been beaten dead, the M Cloudveil Zero-G Jacket smashes the box with something new.
Mont-Bell Torrent Flier Jacket
Although the M Mont-Bell Torrent Flier Jacket was announced last summer, it goes through an important change and features the lightest Gore-Tex fabric available anywhere.
Mont-Bell Clima Air Jacket
With fleeces getting lighter and warmer (and thanks to the popularity of Patagonia R2 Regulator fleece), they are grabbing attention back from lightweight backpackers who appreciate more breathable insulation. The M Mont-Bell Clima Air Jacket is similar to the Patagonia R2 but better.